Friday, October 8, 2010

The best part...

I have been slow to update my blog recently. Having been holed up in bed for a couple of weeks now, my blog has been the first thing to go.

Raging a continuing war against self-pity I have stared at the ceiling and wished for release. I am now propped up with pillows and decided my blog needed attending no matter how I felt.

So what good has come from my convalesced state? Well, as I've lain hear hour upon hour, my mind has been able to wander and that is just so much fun :)

For me, imagining scenes in my head is the best part about writing. I love taking my mind to a new place where characters come to life. I don't need pen, paper or keyboard to do any of this. I just watch my characters talk to each other, choreograph exciting action sequences and feel all the emotion of what they are going through. It's totally awesome.

I am not out of the woods yet. I think I'm still a few weeks away from bouncing out of bed and being my normal self again, so in the meantime I will relish this time of exploration in my story telling.

What's your favourite part of story construction? So much goes into it - I'm fascinated to hear what others think.

Hope everyone is having a great writing week.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Nothing much to say

I have been procrastinating on writing this post as I feel like I have nothing much to say this week. I have been distracted by non-writing things and so therefore am way behind on blog reading and all other things writing. I have managed to do a little editing on my second book, but other than that, I'm pretty low on inspiration.

I'm hoping to get on track over the next two weeks. It's school holidays in NZ so my hubby will be home to help out with junior :) Hopefully I can snatch a few extra minutes here and there to get back in the zone.

I almost want to apologize for this dismal post, so let's make it worth while.

If you have the time to help me out, please share where you get your blog post inspirations from. How do you know what to write each day?
Any tips would be most appreciated.

Hope everyone is having a great week.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Rewrites!!

Having finished my rewrite of Book 1, I was hoping to be able to read through Book 2 and 3, do a few minor revisions and say "Voila! I'm done!"

Yeah right!

Now that I've rewritten Book 1, I need to make changes to Book 2 so that the flow and consistency stays the same. I read through the book thinking "I have to go back to the drawing board with this one."
Thankfully i can keep a majority of my scenes. I'm only adjusting a few and adding in a little more depth and punch to my climax. Not too major, but it did get me thinking about planning.

I know some people write without planning. I know others can't do without it. I have always been in between. Plan as I go... I always knew my beginning and ending and would be about five chapters ahead of myself as I wrote. The more I learn, the more I lean towards thorough planning from the start. What am I really trying to say? Where do I want my story to go?

Stripping back the layers of Book 2 is hard work and if I'd taken the time to plan originally I may have saved myself some stress.

In saying all of this - I am learning so much through the process that maybe this mistake was worth it. I know I'll get a better book if I put in the hard work and make these changes.

What is it like for you guys?
How do you plan?
How much depth do you go into?

Hope everyone has a great week :)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

It's Gone!!

Spent last night refining my synopsis and sending off my manuscript to agent Laura Bradford. It's such a mix of excitement and fear as you press that send button, isn't it?

This is the first time I've had more than one person critique my work before sending it off and I found it really challenging. Out of the five writers who read my first few chapters for me, I had two different views. Three said - awesome, want to read more. Two said - the beginning was a little slow.
So who do I listen to?

Do you any of you struggle with that?

In some ways writing is so subjective. I can appreciate good writing, but I'm not drawn to everything I read. Of course my critique of a genre I don't love will be harsher.

One agent might read my stuff and hate it while another might love my voice and want to go for it.

I guess that's why this business is one of the hardest to break into. All I can hope is that there is an agent out there who likes my manuscript enough to want to work with me. I am more than happy to make revisions - I'm sure an agent or editor can suggest things I've never thought of.

I guess the point I am trying to make is... I have worked on this story until I think it is at it's best. Now I just have to bite the bullet and get it out there. If I believe in my work then it's going to get snagged eventually.

Hope everyone is having a great writing week :)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Book Review

Just finished "Writing Great Books for Young Adults" by Regina Brooks.

It was fantastic. Loved the way it was set out. It was really easy to follow with heaps of great advice. I'm getting to that point now where the books I'm reading on how to write well are starting to cross over. The same messages are coming through again and again. I think this is great. It narrows down the spectrum of what I have to learn :)

Ms. Brooks highlights areas of particular note for young adult readers. She has a firm grasp on what interests them and how they can spot a fake.

If you're writing for a YA audience, I can highly recommend this book.

Hope everyone is having a fantastic writing week. I am just waiting to hear back from my critique people then I have one week to make changes and send off my manuscript. EXCITING!!!!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

RWNZ Conference

I have so much to say about this totally cool event. I will update my blog over the next few weeks with the pieces of advice I picked up, but tonight I just wanted to share some personal highlights.

I followed Scott Eagan's advice to be brave and take every opportunity I could get. It paid off.

So - highlights....

- I met heaps of amazing women, one in particular that I made a great connection with. We've agreed to be critique partners.

- I approached the VP of Harlequin, Dianne Moggy, and gave her a casual two line pitch. She gave me her card and asked me to send her editor some chapters.

- I won the raffle prize "Bradford Breakfast" which scored me a 45 minute breakfast with Laura Bradford, Literary Agent. We spent most of the time talking about my current project. She gave me a ton of good advice. At the end I asked her if she'd be interested in seeing some same chapters and she told me to send her my full manuscript! Whoop! Whoop!

- My favorite workshop was a session with some men who specialize in sword fighting and weapons from the 11th -16th Centuries. They happened to sit at my lunch table so I got chatting with them about one of my scenes set in England, 1393. They were so enthusiastic, they took me into a separate room, pulled out all their weapons and walked me through the authentic moves, step-by-step. Plus the leader gave me his cellphone number so I can call with any follow up questions.

- Last totally cool thing (Yes, I'm blowing my own trumpet here, but hey! I'm celebrating!!) During the cold read critique session, Alex Logan, an editor from Grand Central Publishing said she had nothing bad to say about my pages. Talk about your feel gooder!!!

I would love to write more, but am on a deadline for getting this full manuscript to Laura Bradford. I need to edit my work and I want to get it done in three weeks.
I'm going underground until I get it done.

Have fun writing everybody. Will write again soon :)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Character Look-a-likes

I am currently reading "Writing Great Books for Young Adults" by Regina Brooks. It's really great. I'll do a full review when I'm finished.

One thing she mentioned was keeping an on-going document about your character, including what they look like. The reader will pick up if the character has blue eyes in chapter one and brown eyes in chapter twenty. I do have on-going documents as I write and I update them as new things crop up, but another thing I do is find pictures that I can refer to. I go for actors and celebrities that look a little like the characters in my head. It works really well. For my current WIP I am using a picture of Alex Pettyfer for my male lead and Megan Fox for my female lead. My characters don't look exactly like these two people, but they are close enough and I find it really helpful when describing expressions and small distinctive features about the characters.

After reading a draft, one of the young test audience members said they thought the main character looked like Alex Pettyfer - awesome :)

I don't use this method for every character in my story, but often for the leads and the frequent secondary characters. Sometimes I can't think of an actor who is similar, so the character remains an image in my head, but I do find it really helpful to have pictures of my characters pasted up around me as I write.

What do you guys do?
How do you get a good mental image of your characters?

Hope everyone has a great week :)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My First Chapter

I attended my first chapter meeting on Saturday. It was so much fun!!

It was the Auckland Chapter of the New Zealand Romance Writers Guild. There were about twenty of us and we met at a tennis club in Mt Eden. A couple of the members chatted about their experience at the big RWA conference in Florida. It was so cool hearing what they got up to and who they spoke to.

After that we went around the room and shared where we up to in our writing. I shared my YA trilogy project and they all encouraged me to pitch at the Auckland conference in a couple of weeks. I'm really nervous, but so excited at the same time. I've managed to get it down to a two sentence pitch.

"A time traveling teenager, resigned to a life of servitude and secrecy, finds the courage to break a few rules when the boy she has fallen for wants to be with her. As more and more people find out about their secret affair the stakes get high and she must fight against the people closest to her in order to save the one she loves."

How does that sound?
Any advice is highly appreciated :)

I know the agents will ask more questions from there, but hopefully that hook will be enough to snag their interest.

I'm really looking forward to the conference and can't wait to report back on it.
I'm also really looking forward to my next chapter meeting. It was so fun being in a room with a bunch of other people who have the same dreams I do and actually get how hard writing can be. Making connections isn't as scary as I thought it would be and I can see the benefits of it.

I hope everyone has a great writing week.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Where do you dream?

You know that feeling when a story rises inside you like it has wings. It flies through your system, flashing images into your mind and filling you with a buzz that makes you feel light and happy.

I love that rush. A seed of an idea forming into a coherent story... or even just a new scene for your current WIP that's exciting and fresh.

I had a moment like that the other day. I was packing away some equipment after a pre-school music session with my son. I was the only person in this empty room and could feel the wings of my imagination start to flutter. I smiled. I let myself bask in it for a minute before dragging my feet back to the cacophony of toddlers.

It got me thinking - where does my imagination bloom?
Usually when I'm on my own. An empty room, a shower box, standing in a forest or on hiking trail where no one can see me. I love those places. I love the seclusion and the freedom to let my imagination take flight.

Does anyone else out there get that same feeling?
Where does your imagination bloom?

Hope you have a great week people :)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Follow up to previous blog

The last blog I posted was written in a moment of frustration when my story wasn't gelling. I had to ask myself the question: "Is this total crap or do I have something?"
My answer remains the same: "Yes, I think I have something, but it still needs a lot of work!"

My story line frustrations have been stewing in my brain for the last few days and I am pleased to say that I am finally dragging myself out of the fog.
I think I have found my solution. Thomas B. Sawyer writes in his book, "Demystifying Fiction" that every scene has to have conflict. I realized that the act two of my manuscript is lacking. Different scenarios flickered through my brain and before I knew it I had solved my dilemma with two conflictual scenes that will build tension, move the story forward and add the conflict the readers all crave.

My goal is to write them tomorrow. Hopefully I will be able to sit back at the end of the day with a sense of satisfaction :)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Is this just total crap or do I have something here?

I've been working on my trilogy since January last year. I feel like that story has such potential. I like the premise, I love the characters and I feel like my pacing is good, but sometimes I sit back and wonder if my work is complete crap.

I say this because I am re-writing the first book on the trilogy. You see a few people have read it now and the feedback I have so far is that book 2 and 3 were impossible put down (yay!) and book 1 was okay. I don't need it to be okay, I need it to be fabulous, because no agent or publisher will look twice if I can't make the first book shine.

So, I'm re-writing the first book. I've spent hours on my planning. I stopped working on it for two months so that I could read books on how to improve my style, etc. When I finished my plan I was on a high, I felt like I had something really good. I've just finished writing chapter 19 and I'm wondering...

Maybe I'm taking too long to get into the story, but I need that back ground info. I'm trying to filter it in through dialogue and action, but how good am I making it?

This just goes to show, that I desperately need a few decent critiques from people who know what they're talking about. Thankfully I won one :) So I'll be sending off my manuscript as soon as I'm done.

Do any of you feel that way when you're writing? A sudden burst of self doubt?

It's like a road block, one I must plow through. The thing is, I can do this. I know I can.
I guess sometimes you just need someone else to tell you that too :)

Hope everyone has a great week!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Blogging

I just read an article about backing up your blog in case anything goes wrong and you lose all your hard work. I'd never even thought to do that!
Problem remedied. I have just backed up and will remember from now on!

After learning that small tip, I started surfing through all the features on my blog page. Man, there is so much I can do! It makes me feel computer illiterate. I have so much to learn about blogging.

How do you guys find it?

Any tips for a newbie on how to make my blog better?

Thanks for your help :)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Overwhelmed

Well, I had a fantastic holiday in Australia. The sun was shining, the weather was warm enough for my son to spend hours splashing in the waves and apart from the 5.30 wake up calls each morning (thank you jet lag!!) the trip was a great success.

I have returned home to a plethora of e-mails and a ridiculous list of blogs I wanted to catch up on. I have just finished reading most of them and I am left feeling overwhelmed. I know it's probably silly to feel this way, but reading so much advice all in one hit makes me realize how far I have to go! I am having one of those moments where I feel like I'm never going to make it.

HOWEVER - I finished my blog reading with this: http://meganrebekahblogs.blogspot.com/ and it's helped put things in perspective.

I love writing. No matter what happens in the future, I'm going to write because it makes my day better, it excites me and helps me through those tough times when reality sucks. Whether or not I get published doesn't matter.

Of course I am going to work really hard at achieving my goal of getting published. I am going to keep learning, improving and making my writing the best it can be. Hopefully my perseverance will one day be rewarded, but if it never is... THAT'S OKAY.
Nothing can stop me from writing.

All this advice I have absorbed throughout my reading session has been great. One particular post that I collected off Nathan Bransford blog was particularly cool. Here's the link.... http://janetfitchwrites.wordpress.com/2010/07/08/10-writing-tips-that-can-help-anyone/

So - for all of you out there who are having a day like me - DON'T GIVE UP. Enjoy the process :)

I hope everyone has a great week.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

We're All Going on a Winter Holiday....

If you live "down under" then you, like me, will be struggling through the wet and cold of winter. I don't mind the odd day snuggled up in doors, but my outlook changed drastically upon having a child :) Summer cannot come fast enough.

To all you top siders in the northern hemisphere I am happy for you. Enjoy the sunshine, the warmth, the certain freedom and joy that comes with knowing it is summer. A time for play. A time for fun.

In spite of my mild, winter blues, I am happy to announce that I'm heading off on holiday this weekend! We are flying to Sydney for a holiday with my brother and his wife. Should be super fun. I don't know what it is about getting away from home, but I believe it is essential to our sanity that everyone gets away at least once a year. The mental separation from work and duty does wonders for the brain.

So I won't be around next week to blog. I hope everyone, where ever you are in the world, has a fantastic couple of weeks and that everyone gets a chance to have at least one or two awesome writing sessions.

Now to get on with mine!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Scene construction

How do you write your scenes?
Are you the type of person that concocts it all in your head first? Or do you take bullet point notes then turn it into a scene? Or are you the type who just sits down and lets your brain create as you type?
What works best for you?

Me?

Let's see..

The scenes that seem to come out best are ones I construct in my head first. Having done my planning, I know where I want the scene to go, but getting there in a unique and interesting way is the challenge.
I usually act out the scene where no one can see me :) and go over the dialogue until it runs smoothly. I then jot down the dialogue and any significant actions. I let that mull for a few days and come back to it. This is when I write my first draft. It is usually total crap and the only part I'm happy with is the dialogue. I then need to walk away again. I often find if I try and solve all the problems then and there I just get frustrated.
After stewing over what I've written (this can take as little as an hour and up to a few days), I head back to the keyboard and re-read the scene, adding, changing, taking away until draft 2 is complete.
I often have do this again to make draft three and then I'll move on.

I find it really hard to move on to my next chapter or scene until I'm happy with the one I've just completed. By happy, I mean that it's passable - not yet brilliant, but enough for me to put it out of my head and move forward.

I'd be really interested to read how others work.

I hope everyone has a great writing week :)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Short Story update

I'm having one of those days where I have no idea what to blog about. Does anyone out there ever have that problem?
But I've committed to blogging every Monday and so I shall.

Firstly, I want to say a big thank you to Roland D. Yeoman who left some great advice in the comments section of my last post.

I agree that my story needs to start with a decent hook. I have completed my first draft and am happy with my initial workings, although I'm not sure about the intro. It intrigued my friend, but will it be enough to hook the judges?

In an effort to make this story the best it can be, I am going to post my first paragraph and see what you guys think.
Any feedback is most welcome.

At this stage, I'm wondering if the hook is strong enough or whether I need to reorder my story, start with the end and circle back around. My only hesitation with doing that, is it might spoil the twist at the end.

Anyway - enough chat from me.
Here's the first paragraph. Is it enough to make you want more?

(At this stage the story is called Dear Eric, but I'm not sold on the title yet)


DEAR ERIC

Dear Eric,

Mrs Kemp wants us to keep diaries for the rest of the term, something about writing freestyle. We don’t have to hand them in, it’s just practice. I think diaries are a dumb idea. I’d rather direct my thoughts to a person.

I’ve chosen you.

Truth is, I really like you, but I’ll never have the courage to tell you. If school were a movie set, you would be Robert Pattinson and I would be an uncredited extra.

To you I’m invisible, which is why you will never read these letters, because if you knew how I felt about you, I’d die of shame.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

How to write a winning entry

Don't get me wrong here. The title of this post is in no way saying that I actually know how to write a winning entry, I'm just writing a blog and hoping someone out there might be able to tell ME :)

July 23rd is the cut off date for a big NZ Short Story competition. The prize is $10,000 and significant recognition, but I'm competing with published authors and brilliant writers with years of experience. I have to enter though. How can I not?

So, the short story. I find this form of writing challenging. Stories always come big to me. My ideas always grow to novel length and I find it really hard to take one snapshot and turn into a compelling short story.

I've been doing a little research in preparation for the competition. I've read advice from previous judges and I've analyzed the previous winners, but sometimes I find their writing really weird. I don't enjoy the stories at all and I don't know why they win. I'm obviously not looking closely enough. From what I can gather, I need to keep my writing simple and precise. I need to leave the reader guessing or pondering, and I need to involve real emotion, make a connection with the audience.
That's what I should be doing in all my writing, but the short form is just so much harder.

I feel like this blog is waffly and disjointed. I guess I'm just getting my thoughts out there, trying to work through the process and come up with an excellent manuscript. My chances of winning are not high, but I do want to submit my absolute best. I want the judges to enjoy my story, be intrigued by it.

I've finished the first draft. I'm hoping to edit that today then set it aside for a 2 weeks before editing again.

Hopefully later this year you will see an ecstatic blog post telling you I won or at least received a highly recommended.

In the meantime, if any of you have short story advice for me, I am all ears.

Hope you all have a great week.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I'm going to a conference! I'm going to a conference!

It's my first one! Can you tell how excited I am?!!!!!

It's the NZ Romance Writers Conference, being held in Auckland at the end of August.
Unfortunately my manuscript won't be ready for pitching, BUT there are so many cool workshops and seminars to attend. Christopher Vogler, whose book I've just finished reading, is going to be one of the main speakers - super cool.

I always read other people's blogs and see what amazing experiences they've had at conferences and now I'm getting a chance. My hope is to learn as much as I can and make a few connections along the way. There will be agents and editors there from the States, which is where I'm hoping to one day be published.

I'll write a review in August after I've been :)

SIDEBAR...

I was lucky enough to win one of Megan's prizes. I am so stoked. It's a full manuscript critique!! Buzzing! Now I just need to hurry up and get my manuscript done.
Once again - time is becoming an issue. Work can be such a pain! Earning money is so overrated :)
In saying that, without I couldn't go to this conference - so YAY for substitute teaching!

Hope everyone has a fab week.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Writing Buddy

I've just been away for a whole weekend with my best friend. It was bliss. We watched movies, talked about all the things our husbands aren't interested in and most importantly we wrote. It was so much fun and it made me realize just how important it is to have one other person that totally gets it.

It was such a joy to be able to blather on about my current manuscript and hash out plot ideas. We are both working our way through a huge pile of books on writing and we spent time sharing what we've learned and incorporating the new lessons into our writing. I managed to finish the planning stage of my latest manuscript while I was away and I'm going to start writing soon. Can't wait!!!

Being able to share this excitement and passion with someone is such a treat.
I hope you all have someone like that in your life too.

As awesome as it is to have a friend to share this with, I think it would be beneficial for us to also belong to a writing group. We find it hard to critique each other. Being objective isn't easy when you're with a friend. Our problem is, we aren't really sure where to start looking.

For those of you who do stumble across this blog - I'd love hear your experiences. How did you find a writing group? What sorts of things do you do? What does belonging to a writing group entail?

Thanks in advance for those of you who do leave a comment.

Hope everyone has a great week.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Contest!!

Hey everyone,

Just to let you know that Megan Rebekah's running a contest on her blog. She's up to 500 followers! Whoop! Whoop!
Prizes are AWESOME.
Definitely check it out :)

http://meganrebekahblogs.blogspot.com/

Happy competing!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

New Software - super fun!!!

I was chatting to my brother a few weeks ago, who also loves to write and is working on a novel. He mentioned doing a search for creative writing software. I had never heard of that kind of thing. He went on to explain that you can get software that helps you organize your work and help you stay on track with your novel.

Sounded good to me!!

As soon as I got home I started a search of my own. Now my brother is a PC man, where as I fell in love with Macs years ago and cannot be swayed. After some hunting I came across a really cool program called Scrivener. It's designed specifically for Macs and has some wicked features. You can split the screen four ways and have pictures and research showing while typing a scene. It stores away all your files and internet links so you don't have to have a gazillion folders, which is the way I have previously been storing all my work. It has a fun cork board feature that helps with scene planning and story structure. Those are just a few of the many features. Do I sound like a commercial yet? Sorry - I'm just excited. It's like getting a new toy!!

There is a free 30 day trial which I am currently using, but I think I'll get the software at the end of it. I know it's not going to make me a better writer, but it will definitely make me a more organized one. It's just something little to help me in my quest.
If you are a Mac person, I encourage you to check it out. My brother says there is some awesome software for PCs too and he actually managed to download his for free - so there you go. His was called ywriter5.

Happy hunting everybody :)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Complex Characters

I've been reading a lot about how to make characters complex and realistic. From what I can tell, you need to give your main characters layers, masks and things that make them relatable. As humans we are all made up of layers and we wear masks we are, more often than not, unaware of.

I have just finished very in depth character profiles for the two main characters of my trilogy and also finished a paragraph or two about all my other characters. I found it a really interesting process. As I delved into who they really were, what they really want and what is conflicting with those desires, I found my characters had more depth than I anticipated.

Knowing the different personality groups helped me in this process. My parents brought me up, teaching me about Florence Littauer's book called Personality Plus. Basically it is divided into four personality groups that each have traits - strengths and weaknesses for that particular personality. Most people in the world are a combination of two, sometimes three. How you were raised impacts as well, but basically every person on the planet is born with a personality that will fit loosely within the four groups.

As I was designing my characters, I found it really useful referring to this book. It gave me insights into how a character may react in a situation. One of my leads is not my personality type, he is more like my brother. I was able to refer to the book and think back on situations with my brother as I was growing up and I was able to think about how my character would react. I think it is going to keep my characters consistent and relatable. I will hopefully avoid that situation where the reader thinks, "That's so out of character. They would never do or say that."

So, if you can get your hands on it... Personality Plus by Florence LIttauer is another great resource to add to your writing collection.

I'm now up to the planning stages or my rewrite and VERY excited. I've learnt so much from these great writing books and now it's time to put all these lessons into action!

Happy writing everyone.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Book Reviews

As promised I am back again to tell you about the two books I have just finished reading.
My friend and I have co-authored a YA fiction. Our pitch obviously had something to it, because we had three requests for more material in relatively quick succession. Unfortunately we also heard back relatively quickly that our writing was not up to scratch. One very kind agent in NZ gave us a list of books that might help us along. So my friend and I have been working our way through them, taking copious notes and learning what we can.

My first book...
The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler.
This is a great book looking at the structure of story. The author has studied mythology and drawn from his research that most successful stories follow a general pattern for plot outline and also include certain character types. I found it a really interesting read. It is a great book if you are getting started on a new story idea or if you are stuck in the middle of one and are a little sure where to go next. I am currently planning a rewrite of the first book in my trilogy and am finding this helpful in working out the kinks in my plot.

The second book...
Story by Robert McKee
Awesome, awesome, awesome! It is actually written for screen writers, but so many of the lessons apply to storytellers whether it's for the stage, screen or novel. It is really in depth and highlights so many excellent points about how to make... characters interesting, scenes pacey and filled with conflict, the structure of a story arc appropriately, dialogue realistic and punchy . I took 30 pages of notes. If you're serious about writing I highly recommend this book.

My next book on the shelf is The Art of Fiction by John Gardner. I look forward to getting my teeth into and will let you know how I go.

Before I start that though, my next goal is to thoroughly map out my rewrite of my latest manuscript. I have so many new lessons to apply to my work and I'm REALLY hoping for good results. I think one thing that keeps coming back to me over and over again is that I need to slow down, take my time, plan thoroughly, do my research and get it right. I have the tendency to enthusiastically rush into my writing and it just creates so much more work.

I hope everyone is having a great week and getting all the writing they want done :)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Long overdue

I am ashamed to see that an entire month has gone by since updating this blog. Life has been ballistically busy and I am struggling to find time to write this blog let alone read the blogs I used to follow religiously. Something must be done!

I feel like this is my third or fourth post relating to this same issue, but life just keeps getting in the way. Having a very active two and a half year old who has cut his day sleep isn't helping. However, I cannot use this as an excuse. If I want a career in this industry (which, like so many, I desperately do) I must make the sacrifices necessary. Even if my brain has turned to custard in the evenings, I need to make the time to stay in touch.

SO.... from this day forth, I hereby declare that I WILL start blogging on a weekly basis. Even if it means sitting up until midnight, I will make the time to read my four favorite blogs and write one of my own.

Okay - so after that public announcement, I'll catch you up on where my writing is at...

After a few disheartening rejections, I have decided it's time to step back and make things right. I have been working my way through some EXCELLENT books on writing. I will review them in my next blog. These books have been inspiring and if I can implement some of these lessons my writing should move up a notch. There is a writing conference coming up in August that I'm hoping to attend. I would like to have my rewrite finished for pitching by then. I know that puts me under major time pressure, but it's good to have goals, right :)

I guess I better get on with it.

I hope everyone else is doing great and still finding the pure joy of losing yourself in the letters :)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Big Rewrite

Having received feedback from a number of people and also having read a number of excellent books on story structure and character profiling, I have decided to rewrite the first book of my trilogy. I'm still trying to decide whether to rewrite without referring to the old version or whether to still paste in some of the scenes I really liked.

I'm surprised by how un-freaked out I am. I'm really looking forward to it actually. If it makes the book better - bring it on!
I'm interested though - I'm assuming others have been in this position. How did you find having to rewrite hours of work? Did you refer back to your old stuff?

Hopefully this will all be worth the effort. Either way it will be fun to hang out with these characters again.

Wish me luck!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Rejected = Dejected

When it comes to writing I have been surprised by how unfazed I have been by rejection letters. I was feeling relatively invincible, until last week. I don't know what it was about this particular rejection, but it totally bummed me out!
I think the thing that made me feel so dejected was that this agent had asked to see more. My hopes were soaring and then a week later totally crashing when she got back to me. Her comments said my writing just wasn't good enough. Yep - that's it right there - dejection. My writing was not good enough. Talk about feeling stink.
So - my brave friend (who co-authored the book with me) wrote back and very politely asked if she could be more specific. The agent generously replied saying that our writing reflects our inexperience, but if we are willing to learn and put in some effort, we'll most likely get there. She also included a list of books that she thought were gold when it came to writing fiction. We have hunted them down and will be reading for a fair few hours over the coming weeks.
It will be great to learn and grow.
So, even though rejection can sometimes feel like dejection it can also lead to improvement and ultimately acceptance.
In spite of how useless I felt last week, I am not going to give up. I love writing too much to consider that option. In the words of a very wise Regal Blue Tang fish, I am going to "Just keep swimming."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Time - where have you gone?

I can't believe it's nearly mid-March!!! These last few weeks have been manic. I have picked up a few at home jobs for my husband's school - data entry type stuff, plus my son has stopped napping during the day. My precious writing time is flying out the window!!
I have been keeping on top of my fortnightly assignments and I'm still querying agents, but everything else has been put on hold and I'm having withdrawal symptoms. I MISS writing. I want to shut myself away for a whole day and bury my brain in an alternate world... one that I've created.
I guess I'm grateful that I'm sort of in between projects. I'm trying to get on with the planning stage of my next manuscript. My trilogy is thoroughly edited and awaiting feedback from an author who is helping me out. The book I've co-written with my friend is being sent out to various agents and I'm now trying to focus on something new, but when am I supposed to do this.
I must find the time somehow.
What do you guys do? When is your ultimate writing time? When is your "I can settle for that" writing time? And do you ever feel like I do and struggle to find any time to dance with your keyboard.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Planning - it's so worth it.

I have just received a really valuable critique for my current WIP. It is three pages worth of awesome suggestions for how to change, rearrange and rewrite my story to make it so much better.
Well - I've just done it. I've just spent the last three hours trying to re-work my first three chapters so I can send them off for the Chapter One Promotions competition... and now my unsure self wants yet another critique.
I don't know how everybody else feels, but I find it really hard to re-work material. I think my problem with this manuscript is that I started writing with gusto and then realized my planning was total crap. I am now having to work backwards to try and give this story punch and it's really hard!
So - what is the point of this particular blog. It is an encouragement to all you over enthusiastic writers like me to slow down, take your time and really plan out your story.
My goal over this month is to really nut out what I want in this WIP. I'm sure it will save me hours of frustration later on down the track. I am waving goodbye to my feeble two pages of bullet point notes and starting afresh with new, meaty planning that will keep my story on track.
In the meantime I will make my deadline by sending off my three first chapters and hoping with crossed fingers, toes and other appendages that I will get a look in :)

Monday, February 8, 2010

''Dear Lucky Agent'' Contest: Middle Grade and Young Adult

I try to read the blogs I follow daily. Sometimes I don't always fit it in, but when I do it is completely worthwhile.
Today I noticed a "Dear Lucky Agent" Contest is being run through Guide to Literary Agents. This blog is AWESOME and always has really helpful stuff.
Anyway the competition is running for about two weeks. It's really easy to enter and the prize is a critique of some of your work. You should check it out.
Here's the link...


Happy writing everyone :)

I WON!!! Addition

I forgot to mention...

I entered this competition as Melissa Guyan.

I WON!!!

Call my ridiculously slow, but I just realized today that I should have made this post ages ago. I guess I didn't want to show off, but this is a writing blog and I should be willing to share.
I won the Manukau Libraries Short Story Competition! I totally didn't expect to and nearly didn't send a story in, but knew I'd regret my laziness later.
The competition was to write a prequel or sequel to a short story that was written in the late 80s called, "The Watermelon."

I wrote a sequel. Now short stories aren't really my forte and I ended up deleting most of my first draft and starting again, but here is the finished version.
All the finalist entries have been published on the website. Here is the link.
I hope you like it :)

http://www.manukau-libraries.govt.nz/EN/News/Pages/'Watermelon'shortstorycompetition.aspx

(It's listed on the right side of the page.)


Saturday, February 6, 2010

What to include...

I think it's fair to say that most people live by a certain set of values. How you were raised, what you were taught to believe, what you've chosen for yourself over the years have shaped you into the person you are today.
So my question is, if your writing contradicts your values and beliefs, do you still write it anyway?
My current WIP has a a couple of characters that behave in a way I never would. I have to stay true to who they are, but how do I do that in a way that doesn't make other people think I'm promoting this kind of behavior?
I'm not a huge swearer, just the odd expletive when I hurt myself or am really mad. My WIP antagonist is a complete potty mouth. I'm finding it hard to portray this without including the odd cuss in his scenes. I feel I can't change that attribute in him, that's just who he is!
I'm also not a huge fan of people sleeping together really quickly. I don't like the idea of promoting one night stands. I'm about to write a scene for one of my central protagonists and I just know that he wants to sleep with this girl and totally would if I'd let him. But I really don't want to promote that so I'm thinking I'll make the girl shy away from it - that way my character can still stay true to form.
I'm find this tricky. I really want my characters to be realistic. I want this book to be a tad grittier than other things I've written. It suits the plot. But I also don't want to compromise my beliefs and values.
Does any one else out there ever face this problem? How do you deal with it?

Monday, January 25, 2010

The dreaded synopsis

I am just preparing to enter a couple of competitions in the UK. The first one is called Chapter One Promotions Novel Competition
It looks pretty cool and the prize is wicked. Five hundred pounds and the chance to work with an editor for two years as you complete the novel. It then gets published.
All you have to send in is your first three chapters and a one page synopsis.
UCH! That's where I come undone... THE SYNOPSIS!!!
I have read so many blogs and sites on how to write a good one and I still feel like I cannot master the skill. Especially trying to put an entire plot into one page! I have been procrastinating big time because I'm a worried I'll do a really bad job.
You'd think a synopsis would be easy right? Just explain what you're books about.
Sure - no problem. But how do I do that in a way that will make the judges, editors, agents - whoever - sit up and think, "Man, this is good!"
I almost find a query easier. At least with a query you can leave the person hanging, hungry for more. With a synopsis you've got to put it all out there, but in a really enticing way.
HELP!
Wish me luck.
I'll let you know how I get on. If anyone out there has any other advice on how to make a synopsis stand out, I am more than happy to receive it :)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Just Keep Writing

I am having one of those weeks where the enormity of this whole writing scene is overwhelming. I have been skimming through various blogs, reading forums, taking in advice and thinking - "I'm never going to make it!"
The thing is - I really, REALLY want to make it. So I can't let my doubts win.
It's so easy to get caught up with the obsession of getting my work in print that I forget why I'm doing this in the first place. I find myself getting stressed and down. But I need to stop and remember.... The reason I do all this is because I love writing. I love losing myself in a story. I love creating a world, different characters and exciting scenarios. I love the drama.
SO - no matter how overwhelming this publishing thing is... I am going to keep writing. I am going to keep putting myself out there and one day, who knows, I might just see a Melissa Pearl novel on the shelves of my favorite book stores.
My son is currently obsessed with the movie "Finding Nemo." One of the main characters, Dory, swims along singing, "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming." I can hear the tune in my head now... "Just keep writing, just keep writing."

Monday, January 11, 2010

Foolish Notions

I like to think of myself as a humble person, but I am quickly learning that I have been foolishly arrogant when it comes to my writing.
I'm not going to deny that I think I do have a natural bent towards fiction. My brain is constantly buzzing with new story ideas and I can vividly see each scene play out in my head. I have the ability to see a manuscript through to completion and my skin is tough enough to handle some very honest critiquing.
Why then, did I honestly think I could get away with not reading one scrap of information on how to become a better writer. I never said it aloud, but in the back of my mind I was thinking, "I know how to write a book." Yeah, sure... but do I know how to write a really good book?
Thankfully I have been won over and am now working my way through some great books on how to make my fiction awesome. I just hope I can execute my new knowledge in a way that makes my work so good the publishers are scrambling to get their hands on it ;o)
The book I'm reading at the moment - recommended to me on Jerry B. Jenkins blog is by Thomas B. Sawyer entitled, "Fiction Writing Demystified. Techniques that Will Make You A More Successful Writer." It's so good!
Also - Scott Eagan is about to start a series of blogs on how to take the new techniques we've learned and use them to our best advantage. Might be worth checking out :)